The story of this epic underwater selfie goes deeper than you think

An underwater selfie has been making the rounds the past few weeks, perplexing people the world over.

When you consider the cases that protect iPhones and GoPros from the elements, the shot in question sounds like mere daredevilry—until you take a look at the final image, that is.

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The photo appears to depict fairly normal activities, though set in an underwater tropical paradise. Such clear water breeds calls of “photoshopping!” and further skepticism. A typical response to such a selfie is to make jokes about submerging a laptop in water. There were reaction GIFs aplenty on Reddit as users jettisoned their curiosity away with comedy. The second most upvoted comment on Imgur, however, is: “I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.”

Hendi Syahputra, the Indonesian man behind the viral selfie, has been happy to offer answers. He’s been splitting his time in the country’s historic Yogyakarta region and the idyllic Bangka-Belitung Islands for years while continuing to focus on his studies.

After graduating from college with a degree in computer science, Syahputra moved onto work as an assistant manager at an automotive company. Still, his wanderlust persisted.

Living in the coastal region of Mukomuko offered Syahputra copious opportunities to travel. An avid snorkeling and scuba enthusiast, many trips included breathtaking underwater selfies, among them the shot that helped earn him some 52,000 Instagram followers.

He posted this behind-the-scenes video in January. Yes, the laptop is real and had been broken prior to its underwater excursion, as had the tent situated at the bottom of Bannerman Ponggok, a natural pond known as a snorkeling paradise to those who visit central Java.

Behind the scene foto umbul ponggok yang alhamdulillah fotonya menembus angka penyuka 40K lebih. Horeee 😀😁🙏!. Thanks a lot guys!. 😘 Di sini saya akan kasih tahu beberapa rahasia dan fakta dari pengambilan foto yang gak seberapa ini. 😉? Ada yang bilang kalo fotonya bohongan, editan sotosop, di dalam aquarium, di dalam laut, terus ada yang bilang pembodohan. 😂 Ini loh guys prosesnya, saya menggunakan kamera @gopro dengan settingan timelapse 0.5 detik per shoot, jadi dengan detail dan cepat moment kalian akan terekam. Penggunaan timelapse harus butuh cahaya yang lumayan loh, jika terlalu gelap dan pergerakan kamera cepat bisa-bisa hasilnya fotonya kabur. Tapi kalian bisa kok pake actionCam merek yang lainya dengan settingan yang sama, dan jangan lupa yang support underwater ya. 😉 Umbul ponggok yang tidak terlalu dalam membuat hasil foto timelapse bersih dan jelas walaupun pergerakan kemera begitu cepat. Beda loh kalo bawa ke laut yang kedalamanya sampai 5 lebih, kalo sudah terlalu gelap membuat hasil foto fredive saya sendiri sering kabur. 😂 Oiya yang tanya laptopnya beneran atau egak, perhatikan laptopnya ya, itu laptop Apple cuma Cashnya aja dan sudah rusak, Lihat baik-baik LCDnyapun gak ada. 😂 Dan jangan lupa ya guys, kalo mau coba take foto underwater yang seperti ini yang terpenting harus stabil ketika mendarat ke propertinya. Yaitu dengan cara mengeluarkan udara pernapasan agar tidak ada tekanan udara di dalam tubuh yang membuat badan mengambang dan susah masuk ke dalam air, Dan tentunya harus bisa berenang ya. 😁 jika tidak bisa berenang gimana? Jangan lupa ajak partner atau gebetan yang pinter berenang biar bisa ngejagain, siapa tahu ntar di SCTV tiba-tiba keluar judul di FTV ” Cintaku Bersemi di Umbul Ponggok “. Nah ending filmnya foto-foto prewed dah tu di umbul ponggok pake baju pengantin. ?😂😁 . Tag teman kamu yang harus tahu teknik menyelam seperti ini 😀 __________________ Loc. Umbul Ponggok. Klaten. Jawa tengah. Indonesia. #akukembara

A video posted by Hendy Syahputra (@hendisyahputra) on

Syahputra used a GoPro set to shoot photos every half a second for the above solo shot, employing a similar practice when his friend Yopi Habibi decided to join him and lounge in the small tent. The photo is from a series that Syahputra has been working on and is featured prominently throughout his Instagram.

“I am incredibly adventurous: hiking, exploring the beach, diving into the sea. In Indonesia, a lot of springs are very clear,” Syahputra told the Daily Dot. “[I got this photo] armed with the equipment I have, such as laptops that have been damaged and tents. It’s creative. I am happy with the results of my photos and the fans it attracts.”

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Indonesia is known as the country that put selfie sticks on the map. The literal translation from the Indonesian tongkat narsis is the fitting but comical “narcissist staff.” Syahputra’s shots are anything but self-absorbed, offering admirers a window into the beauty of southeast Asia while chronicling the adventures of a man who, by all accounts, lives a pretty normal life when he’s above sea level. 

Otherwise, he lives by this Minangkabau proverb: Alam takambang jadi guru. Put simply: “We learn from nature.”

April Siese

April Siese

A former Weekend Editor at the Daily Dot, April Siese's reporting covers everything from technology and politics to web culture and humor. Her work has been published by Bustle, Uproxx, Death and Taxes, Rolling Stone, the Daily Beast, Thrillist, Atlas Obscura, and others. Siese joined Quartz in December 2016.